How Much Does Kerosene Really Cost?

“My children use the kerosene lamp to study at night, but on the days when I can only afford to buy a very small amount of kerosene my children do not get to study very long and cannot learn.  When the kerosene runs out there is only darkness.”
Rural villager, Fatick, Senegal

New Lighting Africa research on kerosene pricing in Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya suggests that the amount users actually pay per liter is likely to be quite a bit more than the documented expenditures claim.

Previous estimates indicate that Africans spend $10.5 billion a year on kerosene for lighting but new evidence suggests that this figure may be an underestimate. Trying to validate this figure is a challenge to begin with because the actual price rural users pay for kerosene has only recently been incorporated into national census records. Moreover, “the available data on kerosene expenditures rely on the price per liter to estimate the cost of lighting for kerosene-based lighting sources,” says Jennifer Tracy, research consultant for Lighting Africa.

“People in rural areas rarely purchase by the liter since often times they can only afford to buy kerosene in smaller quantities, on an incremental basis; for example from the village shopkeeper, who has brought back the fuel from a nearby town.”

This new research could indicate that switching to clean off-grid lighting could be even more economically beneficial than presupposed.

People in rural areas spend an average of 30% more for kerosene than people who live in urban centers. In the most extreme cases, the price of kerosene in rural areas can be up to 130% more than in urban centers. This cost disparity is one preliminary finding of the study that Lighting Africa is conducting on kerosene pricing. This research will help Lighting Africa support existing research and offer new insight into actual kerosene expenses sustained in rural, off-grid households, for illumination.